On Friday afternoon I submitted my absentee ballot for next month's U.S. presidential election. As that ballot makes its way from Halifax, Nova Scotia to a Town Clerk's office in Michigan the news of Donald Trump's latest bombast broke. This wasn't just a gaffe. It was gross. If I really wanted to, I could spend the whole weekend breaking down the social, psychological and political implications of Trump's latest sexist statement. But I won't.
I don't need to overthink this one.
We don't need to wrestle with academic theory on this.
Donald Trump is a Dirty Old Man. Period.
This certainly isn't the first offensive thing Mr. Trump has said -- and it surely won't be the last. But in my mind, it's the only evidence we need to make up our minds about this man. Language matters. The nouns and verbs we choose to use say something about who we are and how we see the world. To some degree, they must be connected to how we act in the world. They aren't merely the matters of high school English class.
"You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful -- I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the p***y. You can do anything." - Donald Trump
While Trump surrogates quickly excused the language as the "locker room talk" of a 59-year-old man, I have found myself confused as to why this would be a viable excuse for anyone over the age of 15 or 16. While traditions of misogyny and harassment are terrible things to see at any age -- what's worse is hearing a major party candidate for President of the United States using the excuse of "all the other middle school boys were doing it too".
Let's not lose track of the fact we're talking about a 70 year old, thrice-married, beauty-pageant owner talking about the "bitches" he is trying to bed.
If that's not Dirty Old Man syndrome, I don't know what is.
Donald Trump's vulgar words reveal a vulgar character.
The excuse is laughable. Most men do not, in fact, speak like this. But more importantly, every single man, boy and child that does carry this sort of rhetoric forward should be confronted and held to account. It's not just "locker room talk". It's not "boys-being-boys". It's gross. It's toxic -- and it hurts everyone.
Men embracing this language are less than what they could be. They're insecure, small, and broken in some way. In wrestling with their own insecurity they find themselves lashing out to make other humans less... human. And the women confronted with these attitudes are not only left with the fallout from varying degrees of verbal, physical, and sexual assault -- they have to navigate the road to recovery while carrying all this excess baggage from weak, insecure men.
The weight of this baggage has never been more clear to me than it is today. Since the release of the Trump tape, I've done my best to avoid simply mansplaining why this is so bad. I listened to my wife. I put out an open invite for feedback from the women in my Facebook sphere.
I've been transfixed by NY Times best-selling-author and Twitter all-star Kelly Oxford's (@KellyOxford) #NotOkay timeline in which thousands of women have shared their everyday experiences with sexual assault and the regularity with which half of our population is grabbed -- as Donald Trump would say -- "by the p***y".
The one thing made abundantly clear to me through these stories is that the words of Donald Trump are not simply words attached to nothing -- floating in the ether. These are words (that matter), attached to actions (that matter), connected to women (who matter). Yes, the words speak to attitudes that Donald Trump so clearly holds. But the words also speak to actions that Donald Trump has not even begun to deny.
The truly scary words from Donald Trump's mouth deal with his celebration of non-consent. Donald Trump trumpets the fact that he can sexually assault women and get away with it because he's a "star".
When Donald Trump says: "I just kiss. I don't even wait", it is worth finishing out that thought. What doesn't Donald Trump wait for? What he's not waiting for is "CONSENT".
When Donald Trump says: "When you're a star...You can do anything..." he, again, is not waiting for CONSENT. Yes, these aren't the most lewd words used by in the exchange -- but they are the most problematic. The truly scary words from Donald Trump's mouth deal with his celebration of non-consent. Donald Trump trumpets the fact that he can sexually assault women and get away with it because he's a "star".
In a step that I certainly never imagined taking -- I'm going to encourage everyone I know to check out Teen Vogue. They've done an amazing job of compiling and contextualizing Kelly Oxford's #NotOkay submissions. As you read message after message after message...the truth is heartbreakingly clear. Donald Trump's vulgar words reveal a vulgar character -- which is connected to the sort of vulgar, criminal actions that thousands of women have bravely detailed this past weekend.
As my absentee ballot makes its way back home to Michigan, I could not be happier that I ticked the box for Secretary Hillary Clinton. She is far from a perfect candidate and my support is certainly not starry-eyed. But a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote against one particular Dirty Old Man, named Donald J Trump. And the reality of a woman stepping into the role of "unofficial leader of the free world" is a vote against Dirty Old Men everywhere. That's a change worth voting for.
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